Earlier this week, Lucasfilm shared an announcement trailer for a new era of “Star Wars” storytelling, dubbed ‘The High Republic.’ The new storyline is set 200 years before ‘The Phantom Menace’ and follows a new group of Jedi, at the height of the Republic, as they face a surprising new threat. The promo images and the trailer are all pretty exciting, showcasing an era of the Jedi that we haven’t really seen explored before. But ‘The High Republic’ isn’t going to grace your TV or cinema screens. Instead, this new storyline is destined for a series of novels and comics. And you what? That’s for the best. It’s time for the “Star Wars” to evolve and progress, exploring a real “new era” for the franchise, and ‘High Republic’ ain’t it.
Now, before I get too far ahead of myself, it’s important to say ‘The High Republic’ does sound fun and intriguing. And as someone that is sick of Lucasfilm constantly rehashing stories that we’ve seen before or filling in gaps that we didn’t need exploring, it’s heartening to know that ‘The High Republic’ will carve a new path for the franchise. But it feels like a half-measure and not the shot in the arm that the “Star Wars” universe desperately needs right now.
In a statement on StarWars.com, it was revealed that ‘The High Republic’ is not going to be connected to anything in development on the film/TV side of Lucasfilm:
“This period on the ‘Star Wars’ timeline will not overlap any of the filmed features or series currently planned for production, giving creators and partners a vast amount of room to tell ‘Star Wars’ stories with new adventures and original characters.”
And that’s important to know because, on paper, the story does bring to mind rumors about what David Benioff and DB Weiss were working on for a new film trilogy before the duo left the project entirely. It was revealed in a report that Benioff and Weiss were developing a series of films about the early days of the Jedi, which seems to be similar to what ‘High Republic’ is trying to paint itself as. However, on Twitter, one of the creative minds behind the new “Star Wars” venture confirmed that ‘High Republic’ was borne out of discussions on the publishing side of Lucasfilm and not the film/TV side. So, even with the similarities, it appears that Benioff and Weiss were interested in something that probably took place thousands of years before ‘Phantom Menace’ instead of 200 years.
It’s in that distinction where ‘The High Republic’ fails fans. And why the new storyline should stay away from films and TV.
Lucasfilm really wants you to believe that this new storyline is something completely new and different. Lucasfilm VP James Waugh described ‘The High Republic’ as “an incredible sandbox for our storytellers to play in.” Kathleen Kennedy, Lucasfilm boss, describes the timeline as “a rich, fertile era for our authors to explore.” But the truth is, this is just the Skywalker Saga with a new coat of paint.
200 years may sound like a long time, but we’re talking about the Jedi, right? This is a group of warriors that has existed for thousands and thousands of years before ‘Phantom Menace.’ Two centuries is nothing. Look at the designs of the characters and the footage used in the announcement trailer. Does that look any different than ‘Phantom Menace?’ Does it feel any different than the stories being told in ‘Clone Wars?’ I mean, they are using clips of Coruscant from the prequels, showing that, at a basic level, things probably didn’t change all that much.
To put it more plainly, in the grand timeline of the Jedi, ‘The High Republic’ is like the 1980s, and ‘Phantom Menace’ is like the 2000s. Yes, things will be new and exciting, but how much will it really differ? ‘The High Republic’ sounds like Lucasfilm trying to explore a new era without alienating fans, which seems like a noble prospect, in theory. You do need to make sure you create something fans will enjoy. But sometimes for something new to be built, the foundation needs to be fundamentally altered.
If Lucasfilm is hellbent on giving us Jedi stories from now until the end of time, how about go back 20,000 years? Show us the true origins of the mystical group. Or go 20,000 years in the future and show us how the universe has evolved in a time when the Skywalker Saga (and the battle between Jedi and Sith) is ancient history. That’s the radical change that is needed to give fans not what they want, but what they need. And no, I’m not going to quote the Kylo Ren line from ‘The Last Jedi’ about the past. But yeah, what he said.
If ‘The Rise of Skywalker’ taught fans anything, it’s that Lucasfilm is lost. The company that was the brainchild of one man is now owned by a huge corporation and run by a series of executives. This isn’t the pure vision of George Lucas anymore, and it never will be. But the world he created with “Star Wars” is so vast and full of potential that it’s a shame that the studio can’t seem to move past one brief period in its history.
Do you really believe ‘The High Republic’ won’t feature an appearance from a young-ish Yoda (the equivalent of recently-retired Yoda versus the Original Trilogy’s geriatric Yoda)? Of course, it will. New versions of Yoda sell merch! And there will be Wookies and droids and lightsabers and family secrets and probably a Skywalker descendent or two. Sorry Lucasfilm, but you gotta do better than that.
‘The High Republic’ isn’t “an epic new era of ‘Star Wars’ storytelling” that Lucasfilm is trying to sell you. Yes, it looks fun, and it’s better than yet another Skywalker Saga novel. But keep that with the publishing side of things. For the films and TV series, it’s time for Lucasfilm to go big and shake things up. So, let’s hope that whatever Kathleen Kennedy and her brain trust have in mind for the real future of the ‘Star Wars’ franchise, it’s going to bring that same amazement and wonder that Lucas gave audiences decades ago.